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Articles / Applying to College / Dos and Don'ts When Meeting The Dean

Dos and Don'ts When Meeting The Dean

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Oct. 5, 2010

Question: I have a "Meet the Dean" presentation to go to next week. It's for my dream school - is there anything in particular I should do or not do? Any questions I should ask? Thanks!


This "Dean" is backlogged with questions, and I'm afraid that I might have responded too late for your "next week" deadline. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by a "Meet the Dean presentation." This could be a one-on-one engagement or perhaps an info session with other applicants. It would help to know more, but--in any case--you should begin by reading up on the college in question. The school's own Web site, College Confidential, guidebooks, etc. can all be good sources of information. Then, before you walk out the door, jot down in a notebook:

-Specific aspects of this college that make it your "Dream school." The key word here is specific. "I've always wanted to go there" and "The campus is beautiful" don't count. Neither does, "There's a great psychology department" or "The people seem really nice." All of this may be true, but you need to dig deeper. Are there atypical classes within the psych department (or any other department) that excite you? Is there a faculty member who just happens to be your favorite author? Does an uncommon major or special program cry out to you? ("Study abroad" doesn't qualify since you can study abroad nearly anywhere you go, but a unusual overseas opportunity would work.) In a one-on-one session you are likely to encounter some version of the "Why this college?" question. In a group meeting, you may not. But, even so, it's worthwhile to understand your own motives and priorities before you Meet the Dean.

-Questions that you really want answered and that you won't find answered on the Web site or in other places. Don't conjure up disingenuous queries just to have something to say. Do you really care how many different publications are in the library or what percentage of the performing arts faculty hold terminal degrees in their fields? Similarly, don't devise questions that are largely for the purpose of showing off ("I won the top journalism prize in my high school so I was wondering if I can be an editor on the college newspaper as a freshman?") Also, remember that the Dean should be up to speed on the Big Picture but probably won't be able to tell you what sort of equipment is used in the physics labs or which novels you would read in 17th Century French literature. Don't put him or her on the spot by asking non-Deanly questions, like the ones that I sometimes get. ("Can you tell me what bus lines go to Fordham University?") I would also shy away from questions that focus too heavily on creature comforts. It's fine to ask if there are no-smoking dorms or vegan options in the cafeteria (if that's not clear from the Web site) but don't devote too much energy to the premium cable TV channels in the dorms. Asking what students find unique about their college is always a good question. And I, personally, am always curious about how campus officials feel that their students defy the school stereotype ... if there is one. You can even flip around the ol' "Why this college?" question and ask the Dean to describe memorable moments in application reading when he or she became convinced that a particular candidate would be well suited to this school.

I hope that helps ... and hope that it reached you before D-Day.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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